His Excellency Dennis Francis, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago has hailed Prime Minister Patterson as a man of honour and principle. He said that the Prime Minister was highly regarded statesman both locally and internationally. His Excellency was speaking on behalf of the members of Diplomatic Corps who were present at this morning’s (Thurs. Jan. 25) meeting at Jamaica House as part of the activities to mark Diplomatic Week.
Prime Minister Patterson in his final address to the Diplomats thanked them for the support and level of cooperation that they have given to advance the development agenda of Jamaica. He mentioned the PetroCaribe Agreement, support from the Mexican Government to the sugar industry and the significant investments from Spain, as examples of the results of Jamaica’s strong relationship with the international community.
The Prime Minister reported on the extent of Jamaica’s involvement in international fora such as the Organization of American States, the United Nations, the G77 and China and Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. He expressed disappointment that the negotiations to conclude the FTAA Agreement had stalled. “This is of concern to CARICOM which regards the timely conclusion of an FTAA Agreement as a vital tool in the efforts to enhance living standards and improve working conditions for all persons within the Americas”, Mr. Patterson said. He also noted that Jamaica shares the general disappointment of the G77 and China with the development cluster of the 2005 World Summit outcome document which he argued gave less than adequate treatment and attention to the development agenda.
On the matter of Jamaica’s progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the Prime Minister said that despite the severe constraints of the country’s debt burden, the real expenditure on education had doubled in the last ten years. He said that the transformation of the education sector was a priority and already 80 percent of critical schools have been refurbished, 26,470 units of furniture delivered, eleven schools expanded and eight new schools were currently under construction. Quoting from the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions, Mr. Patterson said 2004 shows that 75.8% and 80.5% of students had full attendance at the primary and secondary levels respectively.
Mr. Patterson told the Diplomats that the National Poverty Eradication Programme was being reviewed to strengthen the delivery and effectiveness of the programme. He said that the Millennium Development Goals Report indicates that Jamaica is on track to reduce poverty by 50%.
In the area of health, he said that the Government continues to focus on healthy lifestyle promotions to address HIV/AIDS, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. “Priority of the National HIV/AIDS programme includes expanding HIV testing and the facilitation of universal access of HIV treatment”, he said. The donor community, he said has been working with Jamaica to coordinate and harmonize the donor activities to ensure the effective allocation of resources to priority programmes and to reduce duplication and transaction costs. As a result, he said that an agreed Medium Term Socio-Economic Policy Framework is in place for the period April 2004 to March 2007.